Empowering Women in STEM and #BreaktheBias with Andy Sim, Dell Technologies

March 9, 20221:13 pm913 views

To celebrate #IWD2022, HR in Asia is publishing a series of articles discussing women’s achievements and challenges in the workplace. Today, we have a candid Q&A session with Andy Sim, Vice President & Managing Director, Singapore at Dell TechnologiesFrom gender bias to stereotype around women in the STEM industry, he shares with us an insight on how tech companies can endorse a gender inclusive environment and #breakthebias. Check it out!


  • Question: International Women’s Day is here again, yet the world is still struggling with the same old issue: gender bias. Mr. Andy, why is it so difficult to prevent bias, especially at the workplace?

Answer: Gender bias has always been a challenge, especially at the workplace. There are a few factors to consider when looking at this issue. Firstly, in Asian society, a lot of cultural norms have contributed to gender bias. Some of us still hold that traditional mindset of women being homemakers while men take on the role of the breadwinner. As much as we try to challenge that belief, there are still a lot of nuances we have to unlearn and relearn.

Secondly, the current systems in many workplaces also perpetuate these biases. For example, some companies only provide two weeks of paternity leave as compared to their counterparts with 16 weeks of maternity leave. Raising a newborn child requires equal care and support from both parents, and yet too often the workplace only recognises mothers as the main caretakers through unequal childcare leave.

Overcoming gender bias in the workplace is a continuous and collective effort. How we treat our colleagues or how we form work policies and programmes are influenced by our family, cultural or societal backgrounds. As leaders and employers, we have to proactively identify these biases and consciously work on them.

  • Question: NTU study finds only 58% of women who graduated with STEM degrees or diplomas have a STEM career. In your opinion, why do the remaining 42% reluctant to pursue a career in the industry, despite having the skills?

Answer: It’s unsettling to see that talented and well-educated women are still experiencing barriers to entering the STEM industry. While there are various factors at play that cause women to feel this reluctance, the two main reasons could be that they feel undervalued, and they lack confidence.

The same study found that Singaporean women are paid about 6% less than men. In fact, the gender pay gap is not a unique problem in Singapore or in the STEM industry but a global one – with women earning on average 82 cents for every dollar earned by men.

A study from Ipsos commissioned by United Women Singapore found that girls lack the confidence to pursue STEM careers. Some of the top reasons for this include concerns around being unqualified; or fears that the working environment is too stressful; and the worry that they might not have the right connections within the industry. These women have been equipped with the right skills but are daunted by the environment that the STEM industry has created from pursuing opportunities within the sector.

  • Question: In the STEM industry, women are often presumed to be less talented than their male counterparts. After years of managing diverse tech talents, do you have any related experience that can prove the stereotype wrong? 

This assumption that women are less talented than men is something that I’ve heard early on in my career, and I could not understand why this was so. Over the years, the best ideas I’ve seen have come from both men and women. They are good at their work not because of their gender, but because of their passion and grit. These are universal values that are not confined by their gender stereotypes.

Given the same circumstances and environment, the quality of work is determined by the individual’s effort. For us to presume that their quality of work is determined by their gender, shows that we lack the capacity to lead these talents to their full potential.

  • Question: Either intended or not, tech companies are still widely dominated by men. What strategies tech companies can adopt to #breakthebias and empower women to succeed at the workplace?

Answer: The lack of diversity in technology is an industrywide challenge requiring solutions beyond our four walls. Women comprise half of our population, and thus half of our employable workforce’s talent and potential. As Singapore steps up efforts to help companies and individuals build digital capabilities with Budget 2022, the call for a pipeline of tech talent is louder than ever. Companies can leverage such initiatives by government or industry bodies where they can tap on resources that benefit women. Tech companies need to ensure that women have equal opportunities to thrive in the sector – only then can we ensure that we are bringing forward different perspectives and harnessing the best of talent to power growth.

At Dell Technologies, Diversity & Inclusion is a business imperative, and it’s also who we are.​ We understand that diverse perspectives fuel innovation, which is why we are strong believers in making opportunities available for a diverse set of individuals. We do this by ensuring unbiased hiring practices, creating inclusive environments, and building a diverse leadership pipeline. Tech companies can also make the change by investing in underrepresented communities early to offer tech education and access. In 2019, Dell Technologies, together with industry partners in Singapore, launched MentorConnect, a cross-company initiative that offers mentorship opportunities for female leaders so that they can build their networks, develop new skills and gain insights in areas such as negotiations and personal branding. Nurturing the next generation of women in the STEM industry is not only a worthy investment, but a noble cause as well.

  • Question: Dell aims to have 50% of its global workforce and 40% of its global people leaders be those who identify as women by 2030. What is the urgency behind this?

Answer: We’ve set these goals to hold ourselves accountable to the impact we want to create. These goals are part of our Progress Made Real social impact plan and 2030 goals, where we harness our reach, technology and people to create a positive, lasting impact on humankind and the planet. These goals are ambitious but attainable given the resources that we have today. We have to move now, and 2030 is a realistic target for to us drive accountability and transparency especially in a world where social issues are becoming more salient.

With our goals, we are making a clear stand on where we are applying our technology and resources to address social issues such as diversity, equity and inclusion. Our efforts will ensure our stakeholders – suppliers, peers, customers, partners, non-profit and public sector organisations – that we are a company that is committed to growing our culture of inclusion and building a workforce that is representative of them. Ultimately, our commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion does not stop at 2030; it is an ongoing journey, not a destination. 

  • Question: What makes an organization gender inclusive, and what is the first step businesses can take to get there?

Answer: Dell Technologies believes that what makes an organisation gender inclusive is when our team members feel respected, safe, and celebrated for who they are. Furthermore, with today’s hybrid work arrangements, businesses need to recognise the growing flexibility that their female employees need. A 2021 Singapore Business Federation study found that 63% of women with informal caregiving responsibilities considered leaving their jobs due to competing personal duties. Supporting women in flexible working arrangements is crucial for businesses, and employers need to understand the need to strike a balance between work and their personal life.

At Dell Technologies, our decade-long Connected Workplace programme allows employees to choose the work style that best fulfils their needs on the job and in life in a highly mobile, collaborative and flexible work setting. As much as we want to attract women into our field, we need to retain them by understanding their needs. Organisations must provide various forms of support in order to promote gender inclusivity in the workplace.

  • Question: Last question, as a male leader, can you share some advice on how men can take part and contribute in tackling the gender bias issue at the workplace?

Answer: Here are some steps we can take:

  1. Unlearn and relearn. Taking action can begin with ourselves – we need to create an environment that is inclusive and welcoming for people to share their ideas without the fear of any judgement. That means constructively calling out assumptions, encouraging open conversations, and deliberately carving out time and space to have these discussions. As leaders, we need to unlearn certain misconceptions or stereotypes and relearn how we interact and communicate with our colleagues. We need to be mindful of our thoughts and actions, which would impact our daily business decisions.
  2. Being advocates for women. As a leader, the position holds more weight and value when we recognise the great work done by our female counterparts. Men can help women break the glass ceiling by making it a point to publicly acknowledge their accomplishments in high-visibility settings such as team meetings and group discussions. When done in the right setting, small actions like this can increase the odds of career advancement for women.
  3. Mentorship. Mentorship is a crucial step in empowering women in the STEM industry. It allows us to understand the barriers preventing women from achieving success. With guidance and network, it will allow more women to connect and access new opportunities which will help accelerate their leadership development. Stepping up to be a mentor to a female colleague and shaping their career growth can help in more ways than we imagine.

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About

Andy Sim is the Vice President & Managing Director at Singapore Dell Technologies. Andy Sim oversees the company’s growth and operations in Singapore, with primary responsibilities for leading the sales strategy, go-to-market, business development and enhancing relationships with customers across public and private sectors, partners and alliances.

Andy has over 30 years of industry experience with global companies including Dell Technologies, Samsung, Cisco Systems, Silicon Graphics, 3M and Hewlett-Packard. His unmistakable passion, coupled with experience across a wide range of regional leadership roles, puts him in a unique position to drive the business in an ever evolving and dynamic technology landscape.


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